Russia rocket ban could halt NASA plans

Russia rocket ban could halt NASA plans
Wed Aug 28, 2013 09:22:33

Russia’s Security Council is considering a ban on supplying the US with powerful RD-180 rocket engines for military communications satellites as Russia focuses on building its own new space launch center, Vostochny, in the Far East.

A ban on the rockets supply to the US heavy booster, Atlas V, which delivers weighty military communications satellites and deep space exploration vehicles into orbit, could put a stop to NASA’s space programs – not just military satellites.

An unnamed representative of Russia’s Federal Space Agency told the Izvestia newspaper that the Security Council is reconsidering the role of Russia’s space industry in the American space exploration program, particularly the 2012 contract on delivering to the US heavy-duty RD-180 rocket engines.

Previously, Moscow has not objected to the fact that America’s Atlas V boosters rigged with Russian rocket engines deliver advanced space armament systems into orbit.

If a ban is put in place, however, engine delivery to the US would probably stop altogether, starting from 2015.

Over the last decade, most of NASA’s Atlas V heavy rocket launches, performed by the United Launch Alliance (a Boeing/Lockheed Martin joint venture), were carried out using Russian RD-180 dual-nozzle rocket engines, a legacy of the Soviet Buran space shuttle program and its unparalleled rocket booster Energia, which could put 100 tons of spacecraft or satellites into orbit.

A ban could also affect the US’s non-military space exploration launches, which are also highly dependable on the Atlas V rocket and RD-180 engines.

The most famous and challenging among them are NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft mission, now traveling to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt (launched in 2006), and the Curiosity Mars rover (launched in 2011) currently operating on the Red Planet.

Many space experts believe that the US would find it difficult to quickly replace the Russian rockets.

Russia plans to start space launches from its new, multibillion-dollar Vostochny cosmodrome in the Far East in 2015.

Moscow and Washington relations are at odds following US intentions to bomb Syria over conflicting reports of an alleged chemical attack that is widely believed to have been committed by Syria militants to open the way for their Western and Arab supporters to attack Syria.

Russia has strongly criticized US military ambitions in a condition that the two had agreed to follow a political solution to end the Western-backed deadly insurgency in Syria.


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